Arts and human rights are closely related and need each other. Art can only flourish in an atmosphere of freedom from fear, violence and repression. Democratic societies based on human rights provide the best institutional framework in which arts can thrive and artists are protected against repression and persecution. At the same time, the universal language of the arts, which attracts and empowers human beings around the globe more than any other means of communication, is the most powerful and joyful medium to promote the universal values of human rights. Yet, human rights and democracy are under stress.
We currently experience the most severe crisis of human rights and democracy globally and in Europe since the end of World War II. Armed conflicts, violence, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, extremism, radicalism, new authoritarianism, racism, fascism and similar forms of intolerance endanger the architecture of peace, development and human rights on which the world order after World War II has been built.
Globalisation driven by neoliberal market policies lead to global economic and financial crises, growing economic inequality, climate change, global injustice, corruption, organized crime, global migration and unrested power of transnational corporations which foster a climate of fear and insecurity, the ideal breeding ground for radicalisation and extremism.
This is the time when we need to stand up and defend human rights and democracy in Europe and worldwide. “We” means civil society, above all academics, intellectuals and artists. Venice, a historical meeting point of arts and culture, is the perfect place to start a new human rights culture.